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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yoga Groupies

In jail, there have become yoga groupies---these are the kids who need to place themselves in the front row, get as close to my mat as they can, and ask me repeatedly "Jen is this what you mean?" I have to admit, these beauties are why I am teaching in jail--these kids would never have taken a yoga class, ever in their life, and now the minute they enter the room, they do as many poses as they have worked on in the last hours before I arrived. The boys are working on sitting float throughs--poses that were taught to them by my friend Buck, who is coming back for an encore performance March 30--the kids cannot wait. In anticipation of Bucks arrival, I have decided to teach the boys how to count in Sanskrit--the movements to the Sun Sals that Buck uses as a surprise for him when he comes--I didn't know how this would go, but I have to tell you, the boys this morning went crazy for it--they want a sheet with the poses and the names so they can practice when I'm not there--they want to be perfect in their yoga. I wonder in their excitement for perfection, are they forgetting the best part of yoga--the movement of the body aligned with breath--and then I remember what John Friend says-"People should feel better about themselves when they leave the mat." And I am proud of them to take on this crazy yoga thing, as they used to call it-

Today 'Big Man' as he likes to be called, noticed that we had 8 newcomers in class--Big Man and Big Man 2 are yoga groupies--realistically they are my protectors in yoga. Big Man 2 reminds me of Ganesha-he is really young, playful and is constantly wanting my attention--he also guards my mat (with a vengence) so no one steps on it with their shoes. He is small, but mighty and wants to do as much if not more than the big kids--he couldn't wait to show me his siting float through deal today--he explained he had been working on it all weekend and couldn't wait for me to come in. At the beginning of class, I always review for the new comers--Big Man reviews the "Yoga Rules" of Jail--and they go like this: You may think this is just for chicks--wait , Don't talk the entire time you'll ruin my yoga experience, Try all you have to do is try and you will find there is more to you than this place. I get very emotional at his speech, I've heard it for 6 months everyday we are together and every time it gets me--he is a silent warrior--Big Man has taken to protecting Big Man 2--and they work well together in an odd couple sort of way--Big Man has a caring heart--one that no one thought was there, but in the yoga we saw it--he also helps the new kids, when there are 18 boys 8 of them new I have to keep eagle vision in the room, and Big Man he walks to the back row---the fish row--fish is a term used in JDC for new kid and they always sit in the back. He will tell them about their feet, that it's ok to take off their socks and that if you ruin his yoga experience--he will have me do dog/planks. Down Dog to Plank vinyasa has become the "punishment pose" of JDC, they do not like to do them, and if the kids stop listening to me and get crazy well it helps them focus. And you would be stunned to see how strong these kids have become--when they find their tricep muscle after 10 dog/planks they forget it was punishement and want to do more--I have to admit, that usually they stop because I can't keep up ;)

These Yoga Groupies have become a huge reason that this program works in this facility--they believe it--and because they are the toughest kids in the jail, the other kids follow and try so hard to be impressive. I am so grateful for their silent leadership--I am so grateful to have this opportunity to learn from some great teachers. These kids each one is a part of me and because of them and their ability to learn they are making me a better teacher.

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